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SouthScout

Troop Communications and the Patrol Method

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I am a Webelos den leader and our den has visited 5 different troops in our search for one to crossover to. I am now on 4 of the five troop email distribution lists and have been for almost a year. Almost all of the emails I receive are from the scoutmaster, committe member or other adult leader and are usually adressing the parents. The topics of the emails range from what will be covered at the next meeting, when to drop off and pick up son for camping, scheduling a scoutmaster conference, advancement issues, what uniform to wear, etc.

 

The emails are batch emals sent out to parents, scouts and leaders together. It appears to me that the Patrol Method and personal reposnsibility cannot develop and succeed when batch emails are sent out to parents. The process of receiving, digesting, recodring and acting on information received from leaders, whether patrol leader, SPL or Scoutmaster is a huge part of growing and learning to handle personal responsibility.

 

My personal story. When I was a young tenderfoot scout in 1979. My father would drive me to the church every Monday night. He would drop me off and I would run into the church for the scout meeting and he would drive down to the pool hall for an hour or so and come back and get me. Well one Monday night he dropped me off and he pulled away. I got to the doors of the scout room and they were locked. No one was around anywhere. The church was locked and of course I had no cell phone to call my dad, heck I didn’t know the phone number at the pool hall if there had been a pay phone nearby. So I sat on the steps for an hour and half and waited. He came back to get me and I told him what happened. He was not upset or concerned. That’s how things were in those days. The next week he takes me to the church, but this time he comes in with me and I explain to the scoutmaster that I arrived the week before and no one was around. The scoutmaster informed me and my dad that at the meeting 2 weeks earlier an announcement was made about no meeting the following week. I obviously was not paying attention or forgot. Most likely it went in one ear and out the other. I was a hapless 12 year old you know. However, what I learned was invaluable to my understanding of personal responsibility and my growth as a scout and person. I learned to take on a little more responsibility that night as I “learned from my mistakeâ€.

 

I have spoken with numerous other leaders about how their troops communicate and almost all of them say with batch emails to parents and scouts together. They all say its a great system and works really well. I'm sure it does, they are sending emails to parents who have jobs that use email or have already learned to process, record and act on important information or instructions. What are the boys getting out of it....just more of their parents telling them what to do and managing their schedules for them.

 

I have one friend who is a scoutmaster and he does not use email very often. Mainly becasue he is not much on being bothered with it. He says that all announcements are given to the scouts at the troop meeting they are to relay any important info to their parents. He says he will get a call from a parent weekly or one will show up at a meeting mad becasue they were not aware of an event, outing, etc. He simply tells them it was mentioned at the meeting and your son was aware of it. This is the only troop I know of that operates this way.

 

How does your troop handle troop and patrol comminuction?

Edited by SouthScout
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All patrol based communication is handled by the boys without copying the adults.  Each patrol runs an activity for the Troop part of our meeting every four weeks.

 

Information about weekly Troop meetings and PLC meetings is sent out by the SPL to scouts with a copy to adults.

 

Information regarding the outdoor program is announced by the SPL at the weekly meetings (all outings are announced three weeks in advance).  One of the ASMs  sends out a detailed e-mail regarding the outings to the scouts with a copy to the adults.  For the boys, this serves as a backup for what is discussed at the meeting.  For the parents, this keeps them appraised of what is going on.  

 

Unfortunately, most parents are the keepers of their kids schedules -- especially for the kids that aren't in high school.  The last three years has been a transition for my now 8th grade son.  The number of reminders from mom and dad has decreased exponentially and he pretty much keeps track of his school and scout commitments.  Copying the parents on the e-mails allows them to provide the level of supervision appropriate for their children.  The 11 year old crossover is different than the 14 year old patrol leader.  

 

The e-mails also give the parents a level of confidence in the program.  Parents worry (especially the parents of the new Scouts) but they seem to worry less when they see what is going on and that the adult leaders are organized and communicating.  The transition to boy-led is more difficult for them than the boys.

 

Heck, I even use the e-mails to coach the parents -- "All scouts should pack their own gear because each scout is responsible for themselves.  A good idea is to develop a checklist to use to pack.  After each outing, scouts can adjust the checklist based on what they needed but didn't have or what they had but didn't need."

 

As I'm writing this, I realize that the e-mails are really for the parents -- the boys would operate fine with just the announcements at the meetings. 

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Unfortunately we too use email and FB to communicate. The issue we have is that not all of the Scouts have an email/FB account, so emails go out to both Scouts and parents.

 

I admit part of the issue for me is not wanting to deal with the irate, first year parents. Instead of putting the blame for the lack of communication where it belongs, on their Scout, it gets placed on us leaders instead. In the past 2 years since I'm back involved on the Boy Scout level, only once did a parent recognize where the blame belonged.

 

Also we have had times where Scouts said they were going on an activity, only at the last minute to be informed no they are not because the parents had something else planned.

 

We also use a newsletter and calendar that's given to the Scouts and parents. But I question how many even read it.

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Dang, don'tcha just hate it when the new guy on the block starts asking questions that seasoned scouters stumble and stammer on?

 

Welcome @@SouthScout, excellent question a Web II DL should be asking because it will make a ton of difference on the development of your boys in their Boy Scsout career.

 

The PL lets his boys know what's going on because it is his job to take care of his boys.  How he goes about this is up to him and the style of leadership he is working on developing.

 

What the SM is doing with the parents for communication is irrelevant because it has nothing to do with the development of the scout.  Nagging, controlling and pampering parents only work on making Paper Eagles.

 

I had two boys in my Venturing Crew that would stand there with a blank stare as I would let them know information about up coming events that were scheduled by others that we wished to participate in.  Their mother wrote it all down in a calendar/date book, then turned around and did the same thing for the other boy in another calendar/date book.  The boys did nothing at this point because mom would make sure they got to where they needed to be when.  Both boys ended up Eagle with Vigil honors in OA and mom kept up this process until they turned 18 and went off to college.  This was a major disservice she did for her kids.  Both boys dropped out and went to work after a year.  The Eagle notice on the college application was a total waste of time and effort.

 

My troop does not have "troop" meetings.  Our "troop" meetings are really a gathering of patrols once a week.  The only thing we do as a "troop" is opening and closing flags.  Other than that, the PL's run the show.  We had 25+ boys, 4 patrols and a large room with 4 corners.  Adults had to find their own space here and there, because the boys "owned the room."  The middle of the room was off limits to the adults because that's where any games, or activities that took up space was reserved for.

 

After a few years of this process, it was obvious that the SM (me) wasn't doing enough leadership and was expecting too much leadership from the boys, and was asked to leave.  The ASM that took over, went back to the adult-led, troop-method approach and the numbers of boys dropped accordingly.  The last time I heard they had too many boys for one patrol, but not really enough for 2, so the SM led, troop method worked out just fine for them.

 

So, ignore what the adults are doing for communication.  If you wish your boys to learn to be self-responsible and self-reliant, focus on what the boys are doing to keep everyone in the game.  Start with the PL's.

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Well, here now, I thought my son's troop was making pretty good efforts at Boy Led, and now it's been shown to me there is a BIG hole in the system.  Knowing what is going on is definately a SM/Committee email to the parents list.  The boys may also share some communication that I don't see (PLC?), but my son has not yet been a part of that.

 

This one is a hard balancing act.  Emails, etc. are a great communication tool, but not all parents are ready to let their kids have such an account, depending on their age.  Most social medial platforms require the users to be 13 and up, so that too can create an issue.  BSA guidelines should not be a problem as long as the communications are in the open or there are at least two adults in the chain in addition to youth.  There don't seem to be specific youth to youth rules beyond cyberchip and scout law of cyberspace.

 

As a part of my committee work with the Troop, I'm mentoring another parent to manage the troop website.  The troop has selected a youth webmaster, and when he comes up into the job, I expect to mentor him as well (mostly on the actual tools, not the content).

 

Our approach (still in the works) will be that the website has a couple of primary purposes. (1) Communications to the Scouts - event planning, packing lists, meeting schedules, etc.  Ideally even patrol corners.  This task I hope will be taken up by the webmaster. (2) Information and promotional materials for recruiting - For the forseeable future, I expect the troop committee to manage this part of the site; and (3) Communications for the parents of members (after this topic, I would now need to reconsider if this should be part of #1).  This would be access to forms, parent support to the troop, etc.

 

When I was a youth, this issue of communications was largely resolved by a troop newsletter, produced monthly, by the youth (the primary job of the Scribe), with both troop and patrol related information.  But print seems to have given way to electronics; yet electronics don't seem to be as effective, it's more piecemeal, and not in one place.

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Our scout leaders use text messages. They think email is for old people (over 20). ;) The school system asks students to use email and text messages so they know to check both, but they check texts faster than email.

 

We don't have mailing lists for non-members, nor do we allow non-member adults to audit scout text communications (they use Remind).

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IMHO, today is not 1979.  Society has different expectations.  When school related activity schedules change, communication is sent through multiple channels.  Same with sports and many different things.  You can choose to communicate like it was 1979, but your group will be viewed badly because of it.  Times change.  I agree there were values in the lessons from back then.  But then again, we have many lessons that can still be taught such as remembering to bring extra shoes or coordinating who is bringing the tent or the food shopping or ....   Times change.

 

Our scout communication is face-to-face and/or through printed newsletters or camp sign-up permission forms.  Scouts may choose to use text messages, but not all our scouts have phones.  Many do not have email.  

 

Adult communication is through email and Facebook.  

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Times may change, but people don't.   :)

 

I went to my scout meeting last week and no one showed up.  I went home after a 15 minute wait at the meeting place.  A couple of days later my email notified me that the meeting place had been changed by the ASM and notified the boys with phone calls at the last minute  and me with an email sent 1 1/2 hours before the meeting start.  I didn't read the email because I was repairing the tire on the canoe trailer so the boys could start canoe lessons as they requested the meeting prior.  So much for boy-led processes being reinforced in the new troop.

Edited by Stosh

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We have email lists but in all honesty, I don't think they do much. My email is certainly ignored so I've been sending out less. Sure, kids and or parents get the information but it doesn't register unless it's close to trivial information. By trivial it involves something like a number. The meeting time has been changed from 7 to 6:30 so we have more daylight. Asking someone to help at an Eagle project or sign up for a campout is too complex because the person will need to think about it. What does work is a scout explicitly talking to another scout one on one. I tell scouts to call scouts and ask them if they will come and help at their Eagle project. Not text or email, and preferably not even voice mail. When we have scouts push the campouts at the meetings then the attendance goes up. Not even text messages help. Whether we want it or not, the communication in our troop really is boy led. I want it that way but there are other adults that aren't so happy with it.

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@@fred johnson, I have to laugh because of the "today is not 1979" comment...and then noting your unit does things face-to-face and using newsletters. Talk about 1979 communication methods. You only missed phone trees and physical bulletin boards. ;) I am not sure I followed your point. ;)

Edited by Krampus

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great post!

it reminds me I need to follow up on that other troop visit soon....

 

I'm in a similar boat....but only on the mailing list for our CO's troop

mostly I think as a carry over from my short time as their Committee Chair while also being the Cubmaster.

 

They use troopwebhost to spit out the emails.

Lots of emails from adults, reminders, dates, bring this, do that...

some are automated I think from the system based on calendar entries.... reminders for round tables, etc...

Very few are from a boy through an adult.... (sent by adult on behalf...)

 

Because of these emails, I'm constantly getting the impression that they are more adult led than they seem to be.  

When I talk to one of the leaders or committee members, I sometimes ask specific questions about how certain ideas or plans came to be.... almost always it seems like a fairly decent boy led troop based on what they tell me.... 

but then I get another email that sure does seem like the adults are doing the planning and such...

the latest example was a string of stuff setting up for a full meal dinner in conjunction with the upcoming COH

 

One thing is for sure, there is a lot of adult energy in the troop..... good or bad

I'm trying really hard to not read too much into it....

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Hey all, Thanks for the replies. I appologize for my bad spelling in my original post. I can't seem to figure out how to edit the post now.

 

Fred Johnson, It's not nesessarily that modern communication is a problem as it is how it is administered and what the impact is on our scouts and the patrol method.

 

What I am observing is the same as blw2. Batch emails give the impression that the parents are doing everthing for their scouts. Receiving and acting on information is something that the scout must do for himself to develop and learn. If parents receive the information in the same batch email, I would wager that they would be sure to "remind" their son if he forgot to complete a task. This takes away the consequences of the scouts failure to act on information he has received. He never learns from his mistake.

 

Batch emails to parents and scouts is surely the most efficeint and easiest way to be sure the task is completed, but "The object of the patrol method is not so much saving the Scoutmaster trouble as to give responsibility to the boy"

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If parents receive the information in the same batch email, I would wager that they would be sure to "remind" their son if he forgot to complete a task. This takes away the consequences of the scouts failure to act on information he has received. He never learns from his mistake.

 

 

ROFL...well that may be true. But it has been my experience that the adults forget nearly as often as the scouts do. I find a high correlation between the parents who manage email/communications well and the kids who manage email/communications well. Most of my problem kids have parents that are no better in managing their email/communications than the kids.

 

Most parents don't suffer consequences well either. Some how they missed the three emails, 2-3 postings on the website, the flier on the bulletin board, the announcement at the COH, and the weekly reminder at the end of the scout meeting. Forget the fact that their smart phone, tablet and PC can sync to the troop calendar....somehow the miscommunication is not their fault.  :blink:

 

The kid who takes notes at the PLC and sends the email to his patrol has a higher degree of patrol uptake on information than any other. Go figure.

Edited by Krampus

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Hey all, Thanks for the replies. I appologize for my bad spelling in my original post. I can't seem to figure out how to edit the post now.

 

Fred Johnson, It's not nesessarily that modern communication is a problem as it is how it is administered and what the impact is on our scouts and the patrol method.

 

What I am observing is the same as blw2. Batch emails give the impression that the parents are doing everthing for their scouts. Receiving and acting on information is something that the scout must do for himself to develop and learn. If parents receive the information in the same batch email, I would wager that they would be sure to "remind" their son if he forgot to complete a task. This takes away the consequences of the scouts failure to act on information he has received. He never learns from his mistake.

 

Batch emails to parents and scouts is surely the most efficeint and easiest way to be sure the task is completed, but "The object of the patrol method is not so much saving the Scoutmaster trouble as to give responsibility to the boy"

 

 

ROFL...well that may be true. But it has been my experience that the adults forget nearly as often as the scouts do. I find a high correlation between the parents who manage email/communications well and the kids who manage email/communications well. Most of my problem kids have parents that are no better in managing their email/communications than the kids.

 

Most parents don't suffer consequences well either. Some how they missed the three emails, 2-3 postings on the website, the flier on the bulletin board, the announcement at the COH, and the weekly reminder at the end of the scout meeting. Forget the fact that their smart phone, tablet and PC can sync to the troop calendar....somehow the miscommunication is not their fault.  :blink:

 

The kid who takes notes at the PLC and sends the email to his patrol has a higher degree of patrol uptake on information than any other. Go figure.

 

My interpretation.... could be all wrong, but based on subtleties..... If the adults that are writing these emails (committee and leaders) were properly on board with the boy led concept, the tone of the emails would be different.... not written as adult to adult, but adult to scout.  I guess since we are treating scouts as young men, there may not be much of a difference.....

 

who's in the salutation line?

& if a paragraph or an email is meant for parents.... words such as "please remind your scout" would change the tone....

or perhaps even better would be the PL sending the email in the first place.... not form the adult at all.

 

and I couldn't agree more @@Krampus, many parents are very disorganized.... especially with email.

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who's in the salutation line?

& if a paragraph or an email is meant for parents.... words such as "please remind your scout" would change the tone....

or perhaps even better would be the PL sending the email in the first place.... not form the adult at all.

 

and I couldn't agree more @@Krampus, many parents are very disorganized.... especially with email.

 

When we send troop communications I always address it to "Dear Scouts (& Parents)". We have a parents list for those items strictly for parents attention. Everything else is scout-to-scout.

 

At the meeting last night I had a parent come up and say, "Sorry we're late, but I went to the church and you weren't there. My son then told me we where here tonight. I guess you guys (adult leaders) forgot to send a location change?" My response was, "We sent notes. One to scouts and one to adults. Sounds like your scout read his." ;)

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